Whidbey General Hospital property sale on South End is uncertain

The sale of a Whidbey General Hospital property on South Whidbey remains undecided this week.

The hospital commissioners met Monday morning to hear public comments about the possible sale of the 4.5-acre property in Bayview.

The property, undeveloped land along Highway 525, was originally purchased in January 2008 with the intent of building a clinic there.

Hank Hanigan, the hospital’s chief operations officer, said the clinic was supposed to house mammography, X-rays, physical therapy and other outpatient services.

However, construction was halted before it could begin in 2008.

At first, the project was stalled by a lack of funding, hospital officials said. Then, regulations for how a hospital could be designated as a Critical Access Hospital changed, and a clinic on that property would have cost Whidbey General Hospital its Critical Access funding.

Critical Access Hospitals are designated as small hospitals in rural areas with no more than 25 inpatient beds.

Critical Access Hospitals must have 24-hour emergency services seven days a week and be located more than 35 miles from any other hospital or Critical Access Hospital in a non-mountainous area.

If the clinic was built on the property in Bayview, Whidbey General would no longer qualify as a Critical Access Hospital due to the facility’s close proximity.

Monday’s public meeting was for the board to hear public comment about whether or not the property should be sold.

No private citizens appeared at the 7 a.m. meeting to comment, but there was a letter from Sue Ellen White read into the record during the meeting.

White suggested that selling the property was premature because neither of the two clinics on South Whidbey provided enough services, and the clinic the board originally planned on building in Langley would.

“Make it too inconvenient or problematic, and people will go elsewhere,” White said in her letter.

Because there are two functioning clinics on the South End, a third, more inclusive clinic isn’t necessary, said Hospital Commissioner Grethe Cammermeyer, who represents South Whidbey.

Cammermeyer said she wanted to know if there was a rush to sell the property, or if it was only proposed in an effort to liquidate unused hospital assets.

Commissioner Ron Wallin, the board secretary, expressed shock at the low value of the property. The hospital purchased it for $1.98 million in 2008, but the county assessor’s office appraised the property value at only $595,890.

County records also list the property’s value at the time of the sale at $617,739. The decision to purchase the land was made in executive session, which is closed to the public, and no commissioners or officials that were included are still at the hospital. For that reason, current hospital leaders have been unable to answer for the discrepancy.

The South Whidbey Record has filed a public records request for professional appraisals completed prior to the initial sale, but those documents had not been made available by press time.

Cammermeyer suggested waiting for another six months to put it on the market to see if the value increases.

Because Monday’s meeting was about hearing public comments, no decision was made, and the meeting adjourned.

Board President Anne Tarrant said that the commissioners are tentatively planning to make a decision about whether or not to sell at their next official board meeting, which is 7 a.m. Monday, May 7.


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